Inside The Mind of a Productivity Master
What PARA is and how you can use it to organize yourself
Tiago Forte is the founder of Forte Labs and the creator of courses on knowledge management, productivity, writing, and cognitive extension.
His system should be designed to help you produce more, and anything else is a waste of time
He takes something that everyone who's interested in productivity spends endless amounts of time doing, organizing knowledge, and he's managed to cut through it with a simple idea: Actionability
Forte Labs is an online education company focused on transforming people's productivity
The idea is to take people to a completely new level in what they are able to handle, what they’re able to execute, and ultimately what they will be able to produce in the world
Producing results and taking action is crucial to Tiago’s organizing philosophy
Organizing so you can take action is what his systems are designed to do
Create a system that allows you to organize so that you can effectively take action
Organizing for actionability: PARA
Projects, Areas, Resources, Archives
Can fit any file or note on your computer into one of these four categories
The way it's setup is to organize on a scale of actionability, with Projects being the most actionable, Areas being the least, and Archives the least
How his Evernote is organized
It is organized according to PARA.
Tiago explains PARA in detail
Projects is the most important category in PARA
Each project gets its own dedicated notebook with an emoji attached to indicate it is special
Resources - notes related to ongoing interest
Areas - things like Family, Health, Finances, Cooking
Use Readwise to collect book highlights inside of Evernote
Reading highlights are the gateway drug to productivity
For books, use the Kindle app which has a built in highlighting feature
Instapaper for long blog posts and articles
Liner for any other kind of web page
Use progressive summarization to surface key pieces of insight
Every time you look through a note, use formatting to surface the key ideas that pop out to you
Bold the best parts you find and re-visit them later
If anything bold seems especially important, highlight it
Tool to surface random notes whenever he opens a new browser tab
RandomNote is a free tool that surfaces random notes from Evernote
Helps you find things you didn’t even know you were searching for
Digital note-taking is about increasing serendipity and creativity
How he figures out where to put a note when it could go in multiple places
Once you have notes, you tend to attempt to create a perfect categorization scheme for where they should go.
The solution to this problem is to put the note in the first place it's going to be used.
He organizes so he has the information he needs, when he needs it
Best time to review information is right as close to the problem as you can
Right when the need arises
This makes it easy to figure out what's important and where everything should go
How Tiago sets goals
Goals are super important
Look for how you can create value now
Build up and accumulate assets to create products in the future
Divide goals into short, medium, and long-term goals and make them specific, precise, and actionable
Weekly, Monthly, and Quarterly Reviews to Make Sure That You're on Track
As you get better, more and more rules become contingent.
They become optional, they become only as needed. As you develop skill and confidence, you actually need fewer rules. You need less structure.
Organizing his calendar
Keep your todo list in Things
Generate a to-do list during your weekly review
What he does about to-dos that hang around
Don’t allow yourself to feel guilt about it
Think of them as options
Make them more specific
Ask yourself, “Why are they still here?”
Break it down
What he does when he falls off his system
Weekly review is key to getting back on
Can take more four-day periods off
Go on more vacations
All these creative heavy lifts become easier because you know you can come back to sanity in a very short amount of time
Too many of his students are concerned with building the perfect system
Knowledge, I think, is highly informal. It's fluid. It is very context dependent, so it doesn't make sense to spend time on all of that.
It's really like just doing barely enough to get it through those stages of capturing, organizing, distilling so then you can start expressing.
How he comes up with his productivity systems
His best insights come from watching how people naturally work and then adding a little bit of structure and formality.
Informality is a superpower. People have this innate genius, and this is why he has such a deep respect for informality.
A book recommendation: The Body Keeps the Score
All of our problems with attention, learning, and focus can be traced back to trauma
A fundamentally new approach to trauma that will start to infect all aspects of self-development and self-improvement fields